NAGPUR, Maharashtra—Hours after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar led a breakaway faction of NCP MLAs to ally with the BJP—leading to an early morning swearing-in of Devendra Fadnavis as Maharashtra CM and Ajit as Deputy CM—the NCP supremo addressed a joint press conference with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and claimed that he had no idea about Ajit’s actions.
“An MLA informed me at 6:30 am today that they have been taken to Raj Bhavan. I was surprised. After some time, I saw on TV that Ajit Pawar had led some MLAs to Raj Bhavan and after a while, I saw Devendra Fadnvis being sworn in as CM and Ajit Pawar as Deputy CM. The decision of Ajit Pawar is against NCP’s policy and position,” Pawar told reporters with Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray by his side.
Pawar also paraded three NCP MLAs, who he claimed went with Ajit Pawar to governor’s house, on stage.
NCP MLA from Sindhkhed, Raja Rajendra Shingane and Sandip Khirsagar from Beed told reporters that they were asked to assemble at NCP leader Dhananjay Munde’s residence in Mumbai at 6 am.
“Ajit Pawar called me and asked me to reach Dhananjay Munde’s residence today morning. Around eight to ten MLAs were also present there but Munde was not seen. After an hour, we were taken to Raj Bhavan but we had no idea what was happening. Things got cleared only when we saw Fadnavis, Chandrakant Patil and Girish Mahajan. Within minutes, Fadnavis took the oath and Ajit Pawar followed even before we could think of anything. We had no idea what was happening. Immediately after that, we went to Sharad Pawar’s residence and told him what happened. We are with NCP and Sharad Pawar, and will remain so,” Shingane and Kshirsagar told reporters.
Sharad Pawar also claimed that those, who went with Ajit Pawar, were being misled.
“Around 10 to 11 MLAs had gone with him (Ajit Pawar). I want to tell them that the provisions of anti-defection law will apply to them. The mandate of people was against the BJP. Even if these MLAs resign and there is a re-election, Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP will make sure they are defeated. I am sure they won’t be able to prove the majority in the house on the required day. We (Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena) are together and will remain together,” Pawar added.
Uddhav Thackeray also reiterated what Pawar said.
“They have reduced democracy to child’s play and the people’s verdict is being disrespected. We don’t act in the dark of night like them. They don’t want opposition, allies or even competitors inside the party. Maharashtra will teach a lesson to those who backstabbed us. We are with Sharad Pawar and we will fight this battle with him. A cabinet meeting was organized early morning today in Delhi (to revoke the president’s rule in the state). It was a surgical strike on Maharashtra and it will be avenged,” Thackeray said.
When asked about action against Ajit Pawar and Dhananjay Munde, Pawar said NCP’s disciplinary committee will take a call on the matter.
Minutes later, Congress leaders addressed a separate press conference and decried the way the government was formed by BJP early morning in Maharashtra today.
Questioning the governor’s action, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, “A leader goes to Raj Bhavan with a letter and the governor doesn’t feel the need to verify it. The way this swearing-in was done suggests something very fishy. It’s a slap on democracy and constitution. The BJP has crossed all the limits of decency.”
Patel also denied that Congress was responsible for delay in government formation.
“We were in Mumbai a day later when we got a call from Uddhav Thackeray. There was not even a second’s delay from our side,” he claimed.